Frontline Storyteller performs at Mint Hill Library

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On Wednesday, June 21, the Mint Hill Library welcomed Frontline Storyteller Becca Worthington.

Worthington, children’s librarian at ImaginOn, practiced traditional storytelling, a method of telling stories with voices, faces and actions without the aid of any books, props or costumes.

Worthington and her fellow Frontline Storytellers perform stories drawn from different sources. Many times they are very old stories passed around from storyteller to storyteller by word of mouth. Worthington recalls taking a storytelling course from New York storyteller Bill Gordh, who specializes in interactive storytelling for children. Worthington calls two of the stories she told at the Mint Hill Library “his,” adapted from traditional tales from other countries. Another story she claims to have “stolen” from another Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Storyteller, who originally learned it from a British storyteller. “I memorized hers and gave it my own kind of sass and flair,” says Worthington.

Worthington performed five traditional stories from different cultures for an audience of about a dozen children. Her stories included “The Singing Pumpkin,” “Next Time I’ll Know,” “The Stone Cutter,” “The Most Wonderful Egg in the World,” and “Why Spider has Crooked Legs.” “I think it’s important to do stories from other countries instead of just traditional tales from America,” says Worthington, “so I like to do a lot of international tales.”

Traditional storytelling is an art form, and every storyteller has his or her own style. “Everyone’s going to make it their own,” says Worthington, “figuring out what kind of stories you don’t do well, what kind of stories you do do well, can I do accents, can I not, can I land the punchline – it’s all trial and error.”

Worthington calls her storytelling style “Relentlessly energetic and insistent that they play.” Worthington involved the audience in the story through actions and sounds. For example, when she told the story of “The Singing Pumpkin,” Worthington had the children join in by imitating the sound and motion of the old lady’s walking stick and of the old lady slurping pumpkin soup.

Worthington involved the audience in the stories through motion and sound.

Worthington also involved the children in several energetic and interactive games like “Boom Chicka Boom,” a call and response-style game where the teacher calls out a line and the students repeat it. Worthington led the children through several different styles of call and response suggested by her audience like dog-style, cat-style, baby-style, old man-style and British style. The game ended with one of the boys from the audience leading Worthington and his peers in “dance style.”

Worthington led the audience in silly, interactive games between stories.

“I think that librarians are performers,” says Worthington, who wrote her Masters thesis on the lack of performative and theatrical training for children’s librarians throughout the US. “We’re called to sing in front of groups of people every day at story time and read books with voices and enthusiasm. Traditional storytelling is like the ultimate performance to me.”

Unfortunately, in today’s modern world where so much of reading has become digitized and individualized, traditional storytelling is a bit of a dying art form. “I would really love to see teens get involved and interested in traditional storytelling,” says Worthington, who worries that many traditional stories will potentially disappear as the people who tell them age. “I think there are a lot of teen performers, and that could be our next generation of storytellers.”

Adults and children alike enjoyed Worthington’s performance. “We thought she was fantastic,” said Kim Conway, who attended with her two daughters. “Lots of great energy; she really knew how to read the room.” Conway enjoyed the experience of “hearing a real storyteller . . . just her ability to tell a story and draw everyone in . . . even the adults who kind of knew what might be happening, she still found a way to weave the story so that it was interesting for us and we’d want to listen.”

Check the library calendar online for opportunities to see a Frontline Storyteller perform at other library branches this summer.

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her five-year-old daughter Hannah and her two-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: